TikTok Sued by Utah for Facilitating Child Abuse

(RightWing.org) – TikTok is a social media app where it’s users — more than 1 billion monthly users worldwide, more than 150 million of those in the United States — can upload and share videos of themselves or their friends and family or as “influencers” who can monetize their posts.

At the top of that pile is 20-year-old Charli D’Amelio with nearly 155 million followers. Her popularity even landed her a spot on the reality show “Dancing with the Stars” where she finished first winning the Mirror Ball trophy. This has made her a shining example of how leveraging the platform can lead to fame and fortune — as of May 20, 2024, it is estimated she has a net worth of over $30 million.

That kind of success will draw others to TikTok who dream of that lifestyle like a moth to a flame, and teenagers are very likely to fall into that fantasy more easily because they have yet to experience the trials and tribulations of adulthood. Their very naïveté leaves them vulnerable to exploitation in many ways, which is why the popular service and its parent company ByteDance find themselves in two high-profile lawsuits one as defendants and the other as plaintiffs.

Utah State Court

Utah Attorney General (AG) Sean Reyes filed a lawsuit in the Third Judicial District Court Salt Lake City accusing TikTok of violating several of the state’s consumer protection laws to the detriment of their youth. They claim that the social media company and its parent have intentionally created their app so that the underdeveloped brains of 13-18-year-olds become addicted to the input and spend an unhealthy amount of time watching videos.

The complaint also alleges that the app is programmed in such a way that it sends inappropriate viewing suggestions through a “For You” bubble to children because both their human moderators and automatic blocking tools fail to flag the worst of the content up to 70% of the time. The state claims that this has caused the youngsters to normalize acts of suicide, sexual assault, and violence that can have a devastating effect on their developing psyches.

According to the court filing, TikTok and its executives continually claim — including during hearings held by the United States Congress — that their controls are very effective in screening out the offending videos. However, Utah contends that the company’s internal memos revealed that they are well aware of their shortcomings in this area.

Federal Courts

As part of negotiations with congressional Republicans on a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine in the war against Russian aggression, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that would require ByteDance to divest of TikTok within nine months to one year or be banned in the United States. As Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote in an op-ed published in Newsweek, there are several important reasons that this step should be taken.

Rubio’s primary issue comes because of the relationship between ByteDance and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their 2019 agreement with the country’s security forces for “a plan of strategic cooperation to spread propaganda” and bolster its national security. He also expresses a concern over the intertwining of the company’s senior executives who are also members of the CCP and their ability to force the social media platform to hand over the personal data of its American users. TikTok has filed suit in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking that the law be ruled unconstitutional based on the First Amendment.

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